Ballad of the West – Kevin Woods

Kevin Woods (the trumpet player who performed for our January Sunday concert in the FSW Trio) – “Kevin Woods started his jazz education when he was two years old. The current director of Western’s jazz program, Woods grew up with a trumpet player for a father. After graduating from Western in 2005, Woods taught as graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder and worked as an adjunct instructor at Western in 2008 and 2009 while also running the Whatcom County Community College jazz program at the same time.” –WWU AS Review

The Second – Derrick Hodge

Bassist Derrick Hodge, a constant in the Robert Glasper Experiment and the go-to bassist on a plethora of recent recordings, is an interesting artist in his own right. On this second studio release, he goes deeper into his own resources, mostly recording all of the instruments himself and successfully experimenting with sound creations not previously imagined. This is a great example of the rewards to be found in exploring individual work by artists typically listed as band members, behind other leaders. There is magic everywhere, and Hodge harnesses his share on The Second.

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

ArtScience – Robert Glasper Experiment

Houston pianist Robert Glasper first established his credibility on the jazz side of things in the early 00’s, with phenomenally fast and crisp piano chops in a traditional trio setting. In recent years, Glasper’s newer group has confidently established almost a whole new genre, relating jazz to Black popular music in such an authentic way that the “Experiment” is now like nothing else. On ArtScience the music continues to grow, but the idea to include original songs by the individual band members is less that successful. But, hey, that’s the nature of an “experiment.” I’m already looking forward to the next release.

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Madera Latino – Brian Lynch

The virtuoso jazz trumpeter Brian Lynch has always been rooted in Latin music, and has used that influence to great effect in past recordings like The Latin Side of Miles Davis. This Grammy-nominated release has emerged as one of the top recordings of 2016, and shows a master near the top of his form, so confident in his place that he has assembled this band of other top trumpeters for a tribute to the late Woody Shaw. The music is blazing where it needs to be, and sweet where it counts. Madera Latino is an original piece of art celebrating the fire and finesse of the jazz continuum.

Hollistic Musicworks, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Shift – Logan Richardson

Alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, young by jazz standards, is on his third release here, issued by the venerable Blue Note label. He has also attracted an amazing recording ensemble that includes superstar Pat Matheny, MacArthur genius Jason Moran, accomplished drummer Nasheet Waits, and former bandmate, bassist Harish Ragavan. The music is new, and the recording is clearly the work of an ensemble, rather than statements by individual all stars. Richardson’s tone is bold, right down the middle.

Blue Note, 2106
Notes by John Gilbreath

Stripped – Macy Gray

Many listeners won’t be surprised that the popular but idiosyncratic R&B/Soul singer, Macy Gray, has released a jazz record, but those familiar with her “sultry, raspy croon” (Mic), may be surprised to learn it’s only her first. The singer-songwriter rose to prominence with her 1999 hit single “I Try,” which fans will be happy to hear reimagined on her new album Stripped, along with several re-workings of her songs. The album also features covers, including “Redemption Song,” as well as brand-new recordings. Talking to Elle magazine, Gray said that recording a jazz album “was such a completely unexpected but refreshing and fun thing to do.”

Chesky Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

IV [Four] – BadBadNotGood

The fourth studio album of Canadian hip hop-jazz outfit Badbadnotgood finds Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass), Alex Sowinski (drums), and Leland Whitty (sax) at perhaps their most sophisticated, tight, impressive, and forward-thinking. A group that’s only six years old, BBNG has sold-out many shows and has a deservingly devoted following. With echoes of John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, and even Can, IV demonstrates the group’s maturation and entices listeners to what’s to come next.

Leisure, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Lovers – Nels Cline

A record 25 years in the making, the celebrated jazz/rock/noise guitarist’s Blue Note debut, Lovers, features a variety of originals as well as standards from Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, Henry Mancini, and even Sonic Youth. “It is meant to be as personal in its sound and in its song selection as it is universal in its endeavor to assay or map the parameters of ‘mood’ as it once pertained, and currently pertains, to the peculiar and powerful connection between sound/song and intimacy/romance,” says Cline. The gorgeous record certainly lives up to his vision of “celebrating and challenging our iconic notion of romance.”

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Blues and Ballads – Brad Mehldau Trio

The revered trio’s first new release in four years, Blues and Ballads is an album of interpretations of titular works by other composers, including Cole Porter, Charlie Parker, and Lennon & McCartney. Of their 2012 release Where Do You Start, the Financial Times said, “Mehldau never lets his peerless technique and meticulous timing interrupt the narrative flow of a well-told tale.” On this 2016 record, the pianist, along with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, uphold their ability to intricately weave their musical threads in a story.

Nonsuch, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Day Breaks – Norah Jones

Featuring nine new original songs and three covers, as well as top-notch guests Brian Blade (drums), Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ), and Wayne Shorter (sax), the award-winning vocalist’s latest album, out on Blue Note, draws heavily on jazz influences. This is a return to Jones’ roots, since the songstress had more recently been moving toward the folk/pop realm since the release of her enormously popular Blue Note debut several years earlier. “This new album feels full circle because I’m going back to my early influences,” she says. “After the first record, I drifted away from the piano a little bit….I really loved playing piano on this record.”

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath